Wildcats back Reith with plenty of offense
By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL — Warren County’s offense struggled to support its starting pitching early in the season, but it seems the bats are finally coming around for the Wildcats.
Warren County backed another stellar outing from junior pitcher John Reith with some timely hitting against visiting Central on Tuesday night at Bing Crosby Stadium, as the Wildcats picked up their fourth straight victory with a 7-2 Bull Run District win.
The Wildcats’ offense wasn’t exactly explosive against the Falcons — Warren County had just seven hits — but it was plenty for Reith, who pitched his third complete game in as many tries and picked up his third win of the season.
“The first couple games we just realized we’ve got to get the bats going. Our pitchers would thrown gems and we would get just one hit a game,” Wildcats senior Jontae Rollins said. “We understood that supporting Reith and [Austin] King and Eric [Baker], we’ve got to get more runs on the board. Taking batting practice serious in the cage and taking batting practice on the field very seriously has really helped us.”
Reith, who has pitched a complete game in each of his three starts this season, was solid again on the mound for the Wildcats on Tuesday. He allowed two unearned runs on five hits and a walk, and he also struck out seven.
“Mostly the fastball was working. The curveball was pretty good when I needed it. … Usually it takes me a while to get a feel for it, so I thought it did pretty good,” said Reith, who has allowed just one earned run this season, according to Warren County coach Vernon Mathews. “I felt like they were getting more around on me in the later innings of the game. They’re a tough team.”
Reith cruised through the first four innings, as he struck out six batters in that span and didn’t allow a hit until Falcons junior Cody Sager singled on a grounder up the middle with two outs in the fourth inning.
Warren County’s offense staked its starting pitcher an early lead in the bottom of the second inning, as Baker and Blake Cockrell reached on an error and a single, respectively, and sophomore Rhett Tierney ripped a two-run double to left-center to give the Wildcats (5-5, 3-4 Bull Run) a 2-0 lead.
“We had a couple kids step up tonight that haven’t played much, so I’m real proud of them,” Mathews said. “Rhett Tierney, I thought, got us started early in the game. That’s his first hit of the season.”
Central starting pitcher Hayden Bauserman left the mound immediately following Tierney’s double with pain in his pitching arm, and Warren County added another run against Falcons reliever Corey Sibert in the second on a Central error on Joseph Rutherford’s infield single.
The Falcons (5-5, 3-5) answered with two runs in the top of the fifth inning to cut the deficit to one run.
Senior Sam Cornman reached on an error to lead off the inning, and junior Brandon Paschall (2-for-3) doubled to put two runners in scoring position with no outs.
A balk by Reith allowed Cornman to score, and Tristan Rau executed a perfect safety squeeze bunt with one out to bring in Paschall.
Warren County padded its lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth on Central’s third error of the game, and the Wildcats added three important insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out against Sibert before the Falcons’ right-hander got Rutherford to strike out looking for the second out. Sibert then worked into a 2-2 count against Rollins, but the Warren County center fielder jumped on a fastball and sent a single up the middle to score two runs.
“The first couple at-bats I had my head on it, I just wasn’t putting the ball in [play] hard enough. I realized that bases loaded, I had to come through,” Rollins said. “… Coach Mathews and all my teammates had my back and I just had to come through for them.”
Warren County added one more run as Rollins stole second, which drew a throw that bounced off Rollins’ leg and rolled towards left field, allowing Julian Bussells to score.
Sibert, who left the game after Rollins’ single, pitched four innings for Central and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. He also had a strikeout and a walk.
“One thing I was pleased about, Corey Sibert came in and threw,” Falcons coach Donn Foltz said. “I’ve been waiting for him all year. I don’t know if it was a confidence thing or what. Young kid, he didn’t get to play last year because of his knee [torn ACL], so I haven’t really pushed him. But I knew he had the talent. Hopefully that’s going to come through for us. That’s a big shot in the arm.”